4. Keeping Family Life a Priority
It seems as though a strong temptation for many pastors is to prioritize the church over their families. In the pastor’s eyes, the church is seen as God’s work; but in his wife’s eyes, the church is seen as his mistress. According to a study conducted in the early 2000’s, 90% of pastors work between 55-75 hours per week. 90% of pastors feel fatigued and worn out and consequently too exhausted to invest in their kids and too tired to help with daily household chores. 80% of ministry spouses feel left out and unappreciated by their church and possibly by their husbands.
Honestly, it’s a tricky balance. However, if the family is in chaos, most often the church is also in chaos. Author Peter Scazzero, wisely counsels pastors to lead out of the strength of their marriage.
For couples navigating the pressures of ministry life together, date nights, vacations, and prayer retreats are a must. For my husband and I, these have been essential. As my husband’s ministry grew to churches of thousands, the pressures also grew. However, we realized quickly that if our marriage crumbled, so would the ministry. When our kids were young, we spent a lot of money on babysitters. We prioritized vacations so we could get away and recover, and we learned to take prayer retreats to seek God individually and together. In every location where we’ve served, whether a tiny church in rural America or the international chapel in Khartoum, Sudan, my husband and I have found beautiful outdoor places to walk and pray together. At times, pastors' wives have told me, “Oh we can’t afford dates or vacations!” Our posture was, “We can’t afford not to!” Dates and vacations don’t have to be expensive to be impactful. With a little planning and creativity, pastors' wives can infuse some much need intimacy back into their marriages. And the power of praying together is huge.
Is Being a Pastor’s Wife Worth It?
The challenges of being a pastor’s wife are at times large. However, as I look back on our years of ministry life together, the benefits have outweighed the challenges. First of all, obedience to the call of God is paramount. There is no sweeter place than in the center of His will. Sometimes, He allows suffering and trials, but that’s part of the journey and shapes deeper dependency on Christ.
Having a husband with whom you can share the joys of ministering together can build deep unity in your marriage. Hearing his thoughts on Scripture and working together on messages together keeps ministry couples in the Word together. Sharing the joy of watching lives transformed and seeing the faithfulness of God is extraordinary. The stories of God’s provision through the years will be endless. Keep a journal and write down the stories of God’s faithfulness, so that when the rugged times come, you can remember the goodness of God.
If you’re a pastor’s wife and feeling discouraged, may I encourage you? Hang in there and seek to put some healthy patterns in place. Find a mentor to share your hurts with, put some healthy boundaries in place, ask God for a supportive network of friendships and put some effort into your marriage and family life. God promises to be our provision and I have never known Him to fail.
Bill Gaultiere, Pastor Stress Statistics
Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Leader, (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan, 2015), 81
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